Don Weller isn’t just ‘Another Cowboy’ watercolorist
June 14, 2016
As part of the Wasatch Back’s arts community, the Kimball Art Center has a responsibility to engage the public with art through education, exhibitions and events.
The nonprofit will do just that when it opens the new exhibit "Don Weller: Another Cowboy" on Friday, June 17. The display is a 90-work retrospective of Oakley-based Western watercolorist Don Weller and will run through Sunday, July 24.
The exhibit will feature the watercolors, and also nearly 40 of Weller’s early works he did as a graphic designer and illustrator while living in Los Angeles, according to Nancy Stoaks, exhibitions director of the Kimball Art Center.
"Thinking about how to develop this exhibit was so much fun," Stoaks said during an interview with The Park Record. "We are going to take what he is well known for today and dive a little bit into the graphic designs and illustrations that he built a career on for many decades.
"People may recognize some of the images because he did a lot of design work for national publications and for places in the Park City area," she said.
Weller said he was honored the Kimball Art Center was interested in his works.
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"Nancy was over here for two or three days, going through my drawers, pardon the expression, and finding old examples of stuff that I had saved and haven’t looked at in probably 20 to 25 years," he said. "I would see the stacks and remember these old things that I did.
"I’m not sure what Nancy had finally picked, but there was a series of stuff I did for the Egyptian Theatre when we first moved to Utah, which would be in the late 1980s," Weller said. "They are an example of concept and illustration working together."
The artist’s early works include an illustration of Elton John for Time magazine in 1975 and posters for the National Football League in the early 1970s and the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games in 1984.
"When I was an illustrator, the client had so much to do with the art," he said. "I mean, I did have a lot of freedom to do what I wanted to do, but there are some works that I have that were very controlled. Other things, however, remind me of a time when illustration was at its heyday and you could do all types of stuff. You could be creative and use really interesting thinking when coming up with ideas and concepts."
Weller began working with watercolors after he moved to Oakley.
"When I did illustration and graphic design when I lived in Los Angeles, I used Dr. Martin dyes a lot," he said. "They were similar to watercolors in ways, but no good from a long-distance point of view. They will fade with the years and take on a sepia tone, so the color disappears.
"When I began painting cowboys, I realized that I was doing fine art," Weller said. "So, I had to use something that would last for generations if it was taken care of. Just like oils, watercolors may change a little over centuries, but if the pieces are under protective glass and framed properly, they can last forever."
The cowboy theme took Weller full circle to when he rode cutting horses as a kid growing up in Colfax, Washington.
"When I moved out here, we did two books about Park City and as I was looking for what to do with another book, I looked through a Western Horseman magazine, which was a magazine that I used to look at when I was a little boy," he said. "I saw an ad for cutting horses, which I hadn’t thought about for 25 to 30 years, and thought I could do a book about cutting horses."
Weller contacted the National Cutting Horse Association and they introduced him to a cutting horse trainer and an affiliate of the NCHA who lived in Oakley.
"So, when I started painting cowboys, it was pretty natural, I guess," Weller said.
Weller, who is represented by Montgomery-Lee Fine Art, located at 608 Main St., and has his work seen in galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and around the West, said he looks forward to the Kimball Art Center exhibition.
"Montgomery-Lee is a wonderful gallery and have been my gallery for a long time," he said. "The Kimball Art Center is different because it’s more like a museum. It has a different presence and I appreciate what they do.
"So, seeing the art on the walls in a public way will be nice and this particular exhibit will be fun because my work won’t be competing with other artists’ works," Weller said.
Stoaks said the "Another Cowboy" exhibit is what the Kimball Art Center is all about.
"It’s about presenting shows that are meaningful to our community," she said. "We love to celebrate our local artists and this is one of those shows.
"Don has been part of the community since the mid 1980s and I think his show will resonate for the people," Stoaks said. "I’d love to present so much more of what we’re going to show."
The Kimball Art Center, 1401 Kearns Blvd., will present a career-retrospective exhibit by Western artist Don Weller, from Friday, June 17, through Sunday, July 24. An opening reception will be held for Kimball Art Center members on Friday, June 17, at 6 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.kimballartcenter.org.
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